Moldova initialed the EU Association Agreement during the Eastern Partnership Vilnius Summit in November 2013. RuBaltic.Ru discussed the agreement’s preparation, the political mood and its economic consequences with Moldovan former Deputy Minister of Economics and Trade (2008-2009) and member of the Moldovan Parliament’s Permanent Bureau (2010-2014) Iurie MUNTEAN. The first part of this interview can be viewed here.
- Was Moldova ready for the signing?
From an economic standpoint – absolutely not. We have already discussed this. But that is far from all. Moldova was clearly used in order to somehow justify the Vilnius Summit’s Eastern Partnership program after the now-former Ukrainian president Yanukovich refused to sign the Association Agreement on 23 November 2013 in Vilnius.
Nobody among the people in power was worried about the reaction of Moldova’s other big trade partners, like the Customs Union members Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. They were even less concerned with the opinion of the country’s citizens, many of which demanded a nationwide referendum on the matter, not even mentioning that the Transnistria region absolutely unambiguously voiced its desire to join the Customs Union way before the Vilnius Summit. And, less than three months after the initialing of the Association Agreement, more than 98% of the Gagaúzia autonomy in Southern Moldova spoke out in favor of Moldova joining the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. The procedure of conducting the corresponding local referendum was started before the Association Agreement was initialed, and the government was perfectly aware of the dominant sentiment in the autonomy.
Aside from that, according to Moldova’s leading experts, Article 434, as well as number of other articles, from the EU Association Agreement, among other things, violates the Republic of Moldova’s Constitution, undermining our sovereignty and the principle of permanent neutrality.
Specifically, the aforementioned Article 434 states the following: “An Association Council is hereby established. It shall supervise and monitor the application and implementation of this Agreement and periodically review the functioning of this Agreement in the light of its objectives.” These objectives, as stated in other articles of the Agreement, mention that it must be in accordance with the Common defense and security policy.
A question, who will have the majority, and how the decisions will be made in the Association Council, leaves no room for doubt: on one hand, it will be Moldova, and on the other – the representatives of 28 EU member-states.
Not a word on parliament, nor the people, who, according to Moldovan Constitution, are the supreme sovereign.
- How did EU Association and the Free Trade Area affect Moldovan economy?
The initialing and, later, signing of the agreement didn’t solve or even help to solve not a single problem the country is faced with. As one voter poignantly said: “We didn’t get into Europe, but we lost Russia!”
Exports of agricultural goods to the Russian Federation dropped rapidly over the span of a year, which caused a wave of payment failures and decreases in employment in the rural parts. And all of that was just in addition to the fact that, by 2014, the European integration process “cost” Moldova around 400 thousand jobs, that is around a 33% from 2009. In the end, the amount of retired people equaled the amount of working people, and without exaggerating, that is not only and economic, but also a social disaster.
And, if we are to assume that the Free Trade Area Agreement in the short term will have the most negative effects on Moldova’s GDP, which was recently focused on services, while the industry was lately excessively focused on domestic demand no matter how little it was. And, in these conditions, opening up the Moldovan market to EU goods and services was, to put it lightly, - unwanted. And around 50% of Moldova’s export to EY were goods made from Europe’s handout resources, while more than 50% of goods exported to CIS were goods of domestic production, which involved more local companies and this led to more jobs and added value.
- Was there pressure on Moldova on the eve of the Agreement’s signing?
Lots of things happened. Before May 2013, it was almost exclusively “the carrot”. There were pompous visits from Biden, Barroso, Merkel and other distinguished guests, which were accompanied by Chișinău’s manholes being welded shut. Different forms of financing, overall exceeding 2 billion euro, to implement European standards and reforms no one could understand, which, as François de La Rochefoucauld wrote on love, everyone spoke of, but no one saw. There was also the education reform, which closed down almost 400 schools in the country and the war on corruption, which flourished so much, that, according to Gallup, one of America’s most prominent public opinion study agency, Moldova “demonstrated” the highest level of corruption in all of the post-Soviet space, including the Central Asia republics. It was clearly demonstrated by the recently uncovered embezzlement in the banking system and Moldova’s National Bank on the sum experts estimate at 2 billion euro.
But there was also “the stick”. When, for example, in May 2013, the country was faced with early parliamentary elections, which was a threat to the Association Agreement’s initialing, then-EU Commissioners Štefan Füle and Catherine Ashton personally came to Chișinău and, apparently, used a literal stick on the local oligarchs Plahotniuc and Filat, who were leading the crumbling coalition of the right and right-radical parties, who made up the ruling majority.
- How do you view Lithuania’s role during its EU presidency, in 2013, in times of the Eastern Partnership Vilnius Summit? How do you view President Grybauskaitė’s efforts to promote European integration in Eastern European countries?
They didn’t pay off. In real politics, there is no place for exaggerations, and even less for cartoonish grotesque. In any case, this rarely continues for a long period.
- And what do you think about the current Latvian EU presidency? What would you note?
It is obviously a lot different in form. But I doubt it is any different in substance.
- Do you think, Moldova had the threat of some kind of Maidain-style events on the horizon, if it did stop the process of signing of the EU Association Agreement in the last moment?
No. Because the EU Association Agreement was associated with the government, who, after more than four years of ruling under the EU banner, at that point enjoyed support of no more than 7% of the country, according to the most prominent Moldovan sociologists.
- You mentioned that when handling the conflict in the Donbass the Ukrainian government didn’t heed the Transnistria lessons. What did you mean?
The 1992 war, which claimed thousands of innocent lives, and the consequences of which are still unresolved, was also provoked by people, who were either too enchanted with the concept of a national statehood from the times of the Industrial Revolution of the last third of the 17th – first half of the 19thcentury. Approaches like that are too dangerous in multiethnic and multicultural societies, especially in the 21st century. And especially in light of the reinvigorated geopolitical tensions caused by the inevitable crisis of the world capital system.
- Polish President Komorowski, recently speaking in the Ukrainian parliament Rada, called Ukrainians the defenders of Europe from imperial thinking. Do you agree with him?
These kinds of statements from Bronisław Komorowski are completely understandable when you consider his, so to speak, dissident past. It appears, Komorowski still hasn’t left the ideological trenches of the Solidarity. I find the position Boris Kagarlitsky showed in his latest articles to be a lot more suitable.
The financial oligarchy of Europe is trying to save the neoliberal system built on the constitutional foundation of the Maastricht Treaty at any cost.
But, the whole system has clearly left the financial and economic balance and will soon come apart at the seams politically. Using the vast historic experience, the bureaucracy of Brussels will save the situation, on one hand, by inflating the credit bubble, which is happening in Spain, Portugal and Greece and in all member-states to certain extents, and on the other hand – by trying to activate the additional resources, including the new “colonial conquests” like it did in times of overcoming late Victorian depression in the late 19th century. And literally with every day it is more noticeable how this plan with insignificant variations is methodically implemented in Moldova, Ukraine and other former Soviet states.
This kind of policy has no lasting future, as well as the existing world order. And the sooner the so-called political class of the European Union realizes this, the sooner the Lisbon-to-Vladivostok “big Europe” from the “protocol” dreams, wishes and honest beliefs and promises will turn into a rather concrete, complex, yet practical goal. A goal, the achievement of which, as usual in these cases, should start from actual “pilot” projects of cooperation, aimed at gaining tangible and swift results that are capable of better “feeding” the dreams of politicians and, more importantly – feeding the common citizens of Moldova, Ukraine and other “buffer” states…
Translated by: Pavel Shamshiev